My friend Mike Lewis over at Where Peter Is interviewed Dr. Phyllis Zagano for his podcast Peter’s Field Hospital. She has written a new book, Women: Icons of Christ, and spoke about that and, of course, the diaconate.
As Mike notes:
Her new book, Women: Icons of Christ traces the history of ministry by women in the Church, especially women deacons. In this book, she shows how women were removed from leadership, prevented from using their voices, and eliminated from official ministries in the history of the Church. This book also argues in favor of the restoration of women to the ordained diaconate, while refuting the arguments against it.
I greatly enjoyed this conversation with Phyllis. Prior to recording the podcast on Monday, we had never spoken, and I was only vaguely familiar with her background and her work on the history of women in the diaconate. One thing in particular that struck me was her love for and fidelity to the Church.
As she explains in the podcast, Zagano began her work with the Church in the early 1980s as a researcher with then-Auxiliary Bishop John O’Connor for the Military Vicariate of the United States (now Archdiocese for the Military Services). She worked with him on political and moral issues including abortion and gay rights, and it was the future Cardinal O’Connor (not many people’s idea of a liberal prelate) who first suggested that she write about women deacons.
While her conviction about the history and theological possibility of the ordination of women to the diaconate is strong, she makes it very clear in this interview that she is not advocating for anything that has been definitively ruled out by the Church. Phyllis is not suggesting that women should be ordained as priests. She is also firm in her insistence that the decision to re-institute the women’s diaconate (or order of deaconesses) is ultimately the pope’s. But she has been invited by the Vatican to take part in a conversation on a question that has been the focus of no fewer than three official Vatican inquiries in recent decades.
Curious? Check out the podcast.